PHOENIX -- The NFL has hired Dr. Allen Sills as its chief medical officer.
Sills, a neurosurgeon who has specialized in the treatment of athletes, will fill a new full-time position based in New York. He comes to the league from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he serves as professor of neurological surgery, orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation. He is the founder and co-director of the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center.
Sills, 52, will work with NFL team medical staffs, the NFL Players Association and its advisers, as well as experts on the league's medical committees. He will guide the NFL's health and research efforts and is expected to begin his new job in May, but will continue to be active at Vanderbilt.
"We sought a highly credentialed physician and leader with experience as a clinician and researcher, and Dr. Sills' extensive experience caring for athletes makes him the right choice for this important position," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday at the league meetings.
A search panel included Dr. Betsy Nabel, chief health and medical adviser to the NFL and president of Brigham Health; Dr. Rob Heyer, president of the NFL physicians society and team internist for the Carolina Panthers; Ronnie Barnes, senior vice president of medical services and head athletic trainer for the New York Giants; Dr. Robert Cantu, clinical professor of neurosurgery and co-director of the center for the study of traumatic encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine; and Peter Foss of GE Healthcare. The panel worked closely with San Francisco 49ers owner Dr. John York, and Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of health and safety initiatives.
"We were looking for someone respected in the neurological spaces and also who has an appreciation for the culture around athletes," Miller said. "Allen hits both marks and that stood out.
"We had a fantastic group of applicants, with a number of experts in neurological and sports medicine," Miller added of the nearly seven-month search. "Another facet that stood out: Allen has published approximately 150 articles on sports concussions."
Sills also has worked closely with the International Equestrian Foundation, which at times deals with significant head trauma issues. He also has served as an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant for NFL games; as a neurological consultant to the NCAA, Memphis Grizzlies, Nashville Predators, the US Equestrian Foundation and all Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Belmont University athletic teams.
"Hiring Dr. Sills is a touchdown for the NFL," Cantu said. "He is an international leader for his work on concussions in sports. I look forward to working with him to further advance the NFL's ongoing commitment to the health and safety of sports."
But Sills' role with the NFL will not be confined to a specific medical area; all league medical committees will report to him. He will be the point person for all such issues, be they muscular or skeletal -- nearly 60 percent of all NFL injuries are to the lower extremities and involve a significant loss of playing time -- cardiovascular, or infectious diseases.